I was inspired this week by my diverse hometown of Houston gathering peacefully and 60,000 people shouting George Floyd’s name during a march organized by Black Lives Matter and rapper Trae Tha Truth and led by Floyd’s family. Floyd grew up in Houston, and his city came out #HoustonStrong for the former Third Ward resident and Yates High School alumnus. Somehow this city manages to continually pull together in powerful ways. This day was no exception.
(Marie D. De Jesús/Houston Chronicle via AP)
But Houston police — and its chief — are not immune from criticism. And the demonstrations in Houston stood in stark contrast to scenes from across the country of heavily armed law enforcement officers in violent confrontations with protestors, prompting the New York Times to publish a video op-ed on how amid peaceful protests and journalistic coverage of those gatherings, “police are acting like the Constitution has been rewritten.” (For the first time, the U.S. has been added to the list of most dangerous countries for journalists.)
Hundreds gathered Thursday at a memorial for Floyd in Minneapolis, and a public viewing for Floyd will be held in Houston on Monday. On Tuesday, Arnold Ventures is closing its offices for a day of mourning to honor Floyd as he is laid to rest privately in Houston. It’s an opportunity to mourn for Floyd and his family and to reflect on ways in which we can — and must — do better.
Enough is Enough
(Aaron M. Sprecher / Associated Press)
Arnold Ventures is recommitting itself to the work ahead necessary to battle the injustices that are pervasive in our society. The foundation issued this statement on Tuesday:
Enough is enough. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland and too many other Black Americans and people of color at the hands of those charged with protecting them are unconscionable.
Even before the tragic murder of George Floyd, it was clear that policing in the United States is deeply troubled. A lack of transparency and accountability, and a failure to confront the historic racism in policing, has resulted in a law enforcement system that routinely fails at its fundamental task of protecting and serving the American people.
Past efforts at reform have fallen woefully short in no small part because institutional negligence silences the many good actors and allows for racist and brutal policing to persist.
This is a time when those in government, business, education and philanthropy must join with civil rights activists and community leaders to ensure that we achieve deep, systemic, and sustainable changes in policing.
Our mission at Arnold Ventures is to maximize opportunity and minimize injustice. Racial injustice is pervasive in each field in which we work. Our pledge is to continue using all the tools in our arsenal, including research, evidence, advocacy and litigation, to dismantle these injustices and thereby achieve true reform.
Andrea High Bear was a pregnant mother of five when she was transferred to a federal prison facility in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her death there from the coronavirus a month later, advocates say, is the result of multiple failures in the criminal justice system — and it could have been prevented.
The situation: High Bear was relocated to a federal prison in Texas even after the U.S. Bureau of Prisons had announced it was restricting movement within the federal prison system to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. But her presence in the justice system has also come into question: She was convicted of a rarely prosecuted charge, and also could have had her sentence suspended until after she gave birth or been restricted to home confinement. Instead, she was cleared to fly to a federal prison, despite being seven-and-a-half months into a high-risk pregnancy.
Bottom line: High Bear deserved better. Many wrong steps throughout the criminal justice system led to her untimely death and left six children without a mother. “We had big plans, her and I, for her and her family,” says her grandmother Clara LeBeau. “She was going to be divorced and be on her very own. She was going to go to college. She was going to start all over.”
What happens when pharmaceutical companies thwart competition from generic versions of their brand-name drugs? An estimated $761 million footed by taxpayers is lost to state Medicaid programs, money that states could’ve used to balance budgets, pay teachers, and shore up pensions. That’s according to a new study by Dr. Chintan Dave, Dr. Aaron S. Kesselheim, and other researchers affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
What else: Patent litigation was the most common cause for a delay in generics coming to market, according to researchers, meaning “brand-name manufacturers may be offering incentives to generic manufacturers in exchange for terminating ongoing patent challenges.”
Bottom line: “Brand-name drug manufacturers blocking appropriate price competition has led to millions in lost savings,” said AV’s Kristi Martin, Vice President of Drug Pricing. “With unemployment at an all-time high, and Medicaid enrollment increasing, states and taxpayers cannot afford delayed generic entry. Policymakers need to address patent abuses and anti-competitive behaviors that lead to these market failures.”
Ibram X. Kendi, of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University, writing in The Atlantic on The American Nightmare: “Those unforgettable moments of toil, terror, and trauma have made danger essential to the black experience in racist America.”
What America needs to do to actually fix police, via The Atlantic. “America needs to do more than throw good reform dollars at bad agencies. Elected officials at all levels — federal, state, and local — need to commit attention and public resources to changing the legal, administrative, and social frameworks that contribute to officer misconduct.”
Revisiting this New Yorker piece from Jelani Cobb, “There Is No Such Thing As Racial Profiling” — only racism — written after a grand jury failed to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner.
President Trump this week vetoing the Borrower Defense Rule, making it harder for borrowers to have their student debt forgiven if they were defrauded by their colleges, via Inside Higher Ed. To learn how this impacts real people, revisit our story about defrauded veteran Tasha Berkhalter.
Related: Ten predictions for the future of higher education, including greater inequality.
ProPublica writing about how opioid-related deaths have doubled in Chicago, following a national trend, and the pandemic may be making it worse. And this NPR piece about how newly relaxed federal restrictions have made it easier to get treatment amid the evolving opioid crisis in Philadelphia.
What We're Watching
I have found the need amid quarantine to watch films and shows with substance — light and fun content just hasn’t meshed with my mental state. As I’ve mentioned before in this space, I’ve rewatched the 2016 documentary “13th,” which confronts the deep-rooted history of racism in the criminal justice system, and I binged “The Innocence Files,” which explores wrongful convictions where race sometimes played a role. I was also compelled to rewatch Beyonce’s groundbreaking Coachella performance, “Homecoming,” for the (I won’t tell you the number) time. It’s about more than music: In it, she says, “When I decided to do Coachella, instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella.” She introduced unfamiliar viewers to the traditions of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and shined a spotlight on excellence through her dancers, musicians, and production crew. So watch all of the above, and consult this list for more films and documentaries that confront race in America.
Podcasts on a list compiled by activist Brea Baker for Elle. Some I have heard, but others were new discoveries, such as the powerful “Lynching in America” podcast. The episodes, featuring the descendants of victims of lynching, are very short but cast a long shadow on America’s history. She also provides an anti-racist reading list.
“Pod Save the People” from organizer and activist DeRay Mckesson (also an AV grantee). The most recent episode discusses the death of George Floyd, the data behind use of force in policing, and the death of Freddie Gray on the five-year anniversary of his killing. “I think all of us would be more appreciative of creating a world in which it’s not necessary to create such art, and we could write poems about things that didn’t have to do with black people dying.”
By Stuart Buck, Arnold Ventures Vice President of Research
The Lancet just retracted an observational study of over 96,000 COVID-19 patients worldwide whose data had supposedly been collected by a company called Surgisphere (whose CEO was a co-author). The article reported that patients who had been given hydroxychloroquine were around twice as likely to die. Based on this alarming news, the World Health Organization stopped using hydroxychloroquine in a large randomized trial.
“Surgisphere, whose handful of employees appear to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has provided data for multiple studies on COVID-19 co-authored by its chief executive, but has so far failed to adequately explain its data.”
“Until Monday, the ‘get in touch’ link on Surgisphere’s homepage redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, raising questions about how hospitals could easily contact the company to join its database.”
“It is not clear from the methodology in the studies that used Surgisphere data, or from the Surgisphere website itself, how the company was able to put in place data-sharing agreements from so many hospitals worldwide, including those with limited technology, and to reconcile different languages and coding systems, all while staying within the regulatory, data-protection and ethical rules of each country.”
It is amazing that such an implausible source of data could make its way into two of the world’s top medical journals. Food for thought: The many obvious flaws in Surgisphere’s studies were exposed by social media, not by peer review.
Stephanie DiCapua Getman develops and executes Arnold Ventures' digital communications strategy with a focus on multimedia storytelling and audience engagement and oversees daily editorial operations and design.
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